Storytelling

Five Bad Tropes to Drop

Sometimes a trope starts off fine but is overused until it eventually becomes a cliche. That is not what we’re talking about today. Instead, we’ll focus on tropes that are bad to begin with but continue to be used for various reasons. These tropes will … read more »

Five Tips for Creating a Layered Character

Compelling characters have many layers, like an onion. (Or as Donkey in Shrek might say, like cake.) As writers, our job is not to peel back layers but to create them. Without these layers, your characters will feel like flat cardboard cutouts. With them, you’ll have rich, … read more »

Twelve Traits for a Lovable Hero

A hero the audience loves is a critical ingredient in our stories. Unfortunately, liking the character yourself is no guarantee of audience attachment. To help a diverse array of people love your hero, give your protagonist some traits that are widely likable. Starting your story by demonstrating … read more »

Six Tips for Challenging Bigotry With Your Work

Storytelling has a long legacy of fighting for justice, and speculative fiction is no exception. Franchises like Star Trek and Discworld have challenged the way people think and demanded that society improve. When it feels like the path to justice has been lost, many storytellers fight back with their … read more »

Devising Conflict Between Protagonists

Conflicts within Team Good allow us to develop characters while adding excitement to scenes. However, most good guys have every reason to stay on good terms. Without a villain, it can be tricky to get them fighting. As a result, many protagonist conflicts rely on good guys that act out of character or manifest glaring new flaws. … read more »

How to Realistically Depict Evil

Darth Vader and Luke from Empire Strikes Back

Evil is a difficult subject for storytellers. The over saturation of works like Lord of the Rings and Star Wars, where evil celebrates itself with cartoonish glee, has caused many storytellers to eschew the idea of true evil in their work. Shades of grey* seem … read more »

Six Steps to a Subversive Surprise

A lady says farewell to a knight

Storytellers can’t control the expectations their audience brings to a tale. Unfortunately, defying expectations set by common story conventions can make the audience feel like the storyteller broke their promises. Luckily, we have a solution for this: the subversive plot twist. Read more »

How to Craft a Character-Driven Story

Lady Macbeth telling her husband what's what.

Some stories focus on big external conflicts to drive them and use a relatively blank protagonist as the audience’s vessel. But others try to make the protagonist as vivid as possible, trusting them to drive the story. The character has some intense desire or critical … read more »

Five Tips for Telling Prequel Stories

Obi-Wan, Jar Jar, and Qui-Gon from Phantom Menace.

Prequel stories have a reputation for being terrible, and it’s well deserved. The Star Wars prequels, which are awful in almost every way, come to mind of course. Not to be left out, the Harry Potter franchise now has Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find … read more »

Depicting Child Characters

Portraying child characters can be one of the biggest challenges of storytelling. Even though many of us are around children regularly, kids vary so much by age, development rate, and individual experience that it can be easy to pigeonhole them or simply get them wrong. … read more »